Chinese hacking groups have been able to maintain access to U.S. infrastructure systems for an extended period of “at least five years” before being discovered, as per a new report from U.S. security groups. The Joint Cybersecurity Advisory, comprised of U.S. law enforcement groups and security organizations from allied nations such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K., issued its findings on Wednesday.
The report highlights that Chinese hackers have gained access but remained inactive inside vital U.S. systems, infiltrating sectors such as Communications, Energy, Transportation Systems, and Waste and Wastewater Systems in both the continental and non-continental United States and its territories.
Furthermore, the report states that the primary goal of the cyber operation was not intelligence gathering, but rather to gain control over critical infrastructure across the U.S. It raises concerns about potential disruptive effects that these hackers could instigate in the event of geopolitical tensions or military conflicts between the U.S. and China.
The report’s findings align with recent testimonies from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who emphasized the heightened threat posed by Chinese hackers targeting U.S. critical infrastructure. During a congressional hearing, Wray highlighted the risks associated with PRC hackers targeting water treatment plants, electrical grids, oil and natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems, warning that these actions could lead to real-world harm for American citizens.
Wray also drew attention to the vast cyber capabilities of China’s hackers, stating that even if the FBI’s entire cyber team focused exclusively on the China threat, they would still be outnumbered by Chinese hackers by at least 50 to 1. This further underscores the magnitude of the cyber threat posed by Chinese hacking groups to the U.S. infrastructure.
The report and Wray’s testimonies come amid growing concerns about the evolving cyber threat landscape and the increasing sophistication of Chinese hacking capabilities. As the U.S. grapples with the challenges posed by foreign cyber adversaries, there is a pressing need for heightened vigilance and proactive measures to safeguard critical infrastructure against potential cyber attacks.
It is evident that the potential for disruptive effects on U.S. systems by Chinese hackers is a matter of national security concern that warrants immediate attention and concerted efforts to bolster cybersecurity defenses. With the cyber threat landscape constantly evolving, ongoing collaboration between U.S. security agencies and allied nations is crucial in addressing and mitigating the risks posed by foreign cyber adversaries such as China.